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2015 Fall Education Program

Thinking Like a Rabbi - Tradition and Innovation Intertwined  

Rabbinic Judiasm
Led by Rabbi Julie Greenberg

Judaism has been a rabbinic tradition for so long, we forget that the rabbis were a specific kind of leader that was different from the Jewish priests of an earlier era and different from both contemporary and ancient prophets. What is a rabbinic mind? Through an exploration of early Talmudic texts, we will explore the nature of the rabbinic decision-making process, mindset and structure of authority. We will use texts in Hebrew and in English translation; no pre-requisites needed. All are welcome to one or more session but ideally the sessions will work as a set with cumulative learning.

People who register early will be offered material to help prepare in advance for these sessions. 

All sessions will be held at the William Penn House, Community Room, 1919 Chestnut Street, 11:-00 AM until 1:00 PM

Session One – October 25

Rabbinic Judaism emerged at a time of crisis in the Jewish community. The concept of Rabbis and a text-based tradition was a response to the destruction of the Temple and the dispersal of Jews far from the holy land. These days our experience of being Jewish is mediated by two thousand years of rabbinic, text-based leadership but at some point these were new developments that served as creative responses to contemporary needs of that time. Studying the early formation of rabbinic leadership will help us understand Judaism as an evolving religious civilization. Knowing our Jewish past can help us shape innovative responses for the future of Judaism. In this first session we will explore the context for the emergence of rabbinic Judaism and begin to look at the texts that emanated from this period. 

Session Two – November 8

In this session, we’ll continue to use primary sources to look at questions of leadership, authority and decision-making in the first generations of rabbinic history. In addition, we’ll get to know some of the rabbis as characters who have biographies, personalities and some interpersonal drama. The rabbis created conversations across generations; we will access those conversation and add our questions and voices to them. In this way we will join a very traditional intergenerational process of Jewish discovery.

Session Three – November 22

For hundreds of years, Judaism was primarily mediated by rabbinic leadership, but we now live in a post-modern world in which Jewish life is no longer organized under the auspices of rabbinic authority. How can we take what we have learned about the process of Jewish engagement, the value of sacred texts, and a dedication to questioning and learning into the future of Judaism? What are the conversations we need to be having today and how can we structure them in a way that is true to our Jewish past and that is also relevant to today? We are in our own period of global crisis; what can the study of ancient Jewish solutions offer to our needs today?